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Interview 16 with Gail E. Haley

Haley, Gail E. (16)
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Haley, Gail E.; Alcoholics in literature; Alcoholism in literature; Alcoholism counseling; Children’s literature; Collage; Illustrations; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Gail Haley, an author and illustrator of children’s literature born in Charlotte, N.C., recounts her continuing career as a children’s author. In this final interview of sixteen, Ms. Haley describes her work on My Father’s Beast (2006). Ms. Haley recalls how she was motivated to create the book after her interactions with a friend recovering from alcoholism. The combination of her own experiences with alcoholism and those of others culminated in a desire to create a work which would address the subject. At the suggestion of her sister, Ms. Haley decided to create a book tailored for the children of alcoholics which could be used as a tool by counsellors working with the children. Ms. Haley also discusses the narrative choices she made in My Father’s Beast, including her decision to create an allegory, personifying alcoholism, in order to depersonalize the story and allow the reader to disassociate the identity of the parent from the parent’s behavior. Other choices referenced were making the father the alcoholic figure, which she felt would show greater impact on the family, and depicting the family together at the end in order to convey that there is hope in the situation. In addition, Ms. Haley describes creating the illustrations for the text using hand-crafted papers to form collages on which she painted faces and shadows. She notes that this medium was chosen because children are able to make collages from a young age and would therefore be able to connect with the images. She also felt the patchwork nature of the illustrations communicated the universal impact of alcoholism. Ms. Haley reflects on her color choices throughout the illustrations which feature primarily bright colors to offset the situation being depicted. She then discusses her choice to create racially ambiguous characters by using paper bags to create the characters’ skin tones, thus allowing the characters to appeal to a broader audience. Other themes in this interview include rituals, motifs in fairy tales, alcoholism, and treatments for addiction.
North Carolina--Blowing Rock; circa 2000s - 2009
Interview Setting: 
Charlotte, N.C.
Interviews with Gail E. Haley
Interview Audio: